PR News Rescinds Kirt Webster’s Publicist of the Year Award
According to reporting from the Tennessean in Nashville, the industry organization for PR professionals announced Webster's win at a banquet at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., earlier this week. An initial announcement on their website lauded his accomplishments with Dolly Parton's My People Fund, among other achievements. But once media reports began to focus on the allegations of sexual assault that caused Webster to step down from his firm, Webster PR, in November, the organization quickly removed all mention of his win from their website, and within a few hours had added an announcement saying his win had been reversed.
"PR News has rescinded the 2017 Publicist of the Year award given to Kirt Webster amid just-released allegations against Webster of sexual abuse," the statement reads. "The PR News judges had no knowledge of these actions four months ago during the judging process."
These Artists Left Webster PR Amid Allegations
Nashville's music scene was rocked by explosive allegations against Webster that became public on Oct. 31, when former aspiring country singer Austin Rick publicly accused the powerful publicist of repeatedly sexually assaulting him during the period when he was a client from 2007-2008.
Rick's allegations opened a floodgate of similar complaints from both other former clients and a number of ex-employees, who portrayed Webster PR to Taste of Country as a "toxic environment" in which sexual assault, sexual harassment and verbal and emotional abuse were an everyday occurrence. To date, a total of 22 different people have come forward to share stories with various media outlets.
Webster's story has been widely reported even at the national level, with Fox News and even Variety running stories on his downfall. PR News' announcement did not explain why the organization's judges did not rescind his win after the allegations went public and before it was announced. Taste of Country's repeated calls to various executives at PR News remain unreturned.